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Pentagon kicks off satellite communications study

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    Pentagon kicks off satellite communications study

    By: Valerie Insinna, March 24, 2017


    WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is rethinking the way it purchases wideband satellite communications and is looking to industry for ideas, department officials said Thursday.


    As part of a Wideband Communications Services (WCS) Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) study, the department will issue a request for information seeking out details on the latest satellite technologies, as well as what is in the art of the possible, said Air Force Col. George Nagy, who is helping lead the AOA effort and is part of the Principal DoD Space Advisor Staff.


    “We know that the pace of commercial satcom development has been very rapid in the last several years, and the purpose of the RFI is to make sure that we’ve captured — particularly from a technology standpoint — those particular enabling technologies that should be considered in whatever vein for the wideband enterprise,” he told reporters Thursday.


    Nagy said the RFI would be issued “shortly” by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.


    The military currently relies on the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system for much of its communications needs, but also contracts with commercial satellite companies for services to help meet its demands. The newest satellite, WGS-9, was launched on March 18, but the department is already thinking ahead to its future constellation.


    The Defense Department is dependent on access to wideband satellites for communications and data sharing. Given that adversaries are investing in technologies meant to hinder U.S. operations in space — like anti-satellite weapons and new jamming capabilities — the AOA will deliver recommendations on how the next wideband constellation can stay survivable and resilient as threats evolve, Nagy said.




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    The Pentagon has hosted many other engagements with industry in the run up to the AOA, which officially kicked off on Dec. 23. For example, department officials held five roundtable discussions with commercial satcom executives, as well as 35 one-on-one or small group meetings, he said.


    "These activities demonstrate DoD's commitment to examining existing and future commercial capabilities to meet DoD requirements beyond the traditional short-term leasing arrangements that have predominated since 9/11,” he said.


    The AOA will assess different acquisition strategies for purchasing satellite communications capabilities, including “whether industry would completely own the process and we would just accept the terminals and incorporate them into our weapons systems, to the other end of the spectrum — like what we have with WGS today — where we basically own all of the different organizations within the department,” said Norman Yarbrough, a staffer in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.


    The Pentagon is also looking at “contractual mechanisms that might be unique to a particular company or organization” that might offer a more cost-efficient way to meet demands, he added.


    WGS satellites are funded by the U.S. government together with five international customers, and are operated and maintained by the U.S. Air Force. The next satellite communications system, however, may have more international involvement.


    Sixteen partner nations have been invited to participate in the WCS AOA, Nagy said. Canada, Denmark, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Norway and the United Kingdom have all accepted, and Australia’s response is expected soon.


    http://www.defensenews.com/articles/pentagon-kicks-off-wideband-communications-study
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